Merritt Hospice Society supporting the terminally ill for 35 years

posted in the Merritt Herald, May 2021


The Merritt Hospice Society has been providing services to the community of Merritt for 35 years, supporting the terminally ill and their families since 1986.


You may be wondering, what is hospice? If you have never had a terminally ill loved one, you may be unfamiliar with the service this organization provides to those who are reaching the end of their life.


“Hospice is caring people working in cooperation with physicians and other members of the health care team to offer support to the terminally ill and their families,” said Jill Sanford, chairman of the Merritt Hospice Society.


“We also support individuals who are grieving, with one-on-one support and grief support groups.”


It is the firm belief of those within the Hospice Society that no one should die or grieve alone, and all work is done to support this belief. The Society is staffed by volunteers, and no clients are ever charged a fee for what is provided.


“All volunteers complete a three-day training session, a criminal record check and sign a confidentiality agreement,” said Sanford, who has been a hospice volunteer herself for more than 35 years.


“Our volunteers are adults from various backgrounds and experience, and are consciously paired with clients best suited for them. They are very compassionate individuals that want to make a difference, and enjoy helping people.”


Volunteers visit clients wherever they are in their journey, whether it is at home, in a care facility or at a hospital.


They offer services such as bedside sitting, where they provide conversation, or merely comfort, to someone at end of life who is bedbound; “time-out” for the primary caregiver, similar to respite care, as caring for a terminally ill loved one can often be physically and emotionally draining; companionship in the form of letter-writing, reading or other small tasks the ill person may not be able to do themselves, and also listening without judgement.


“We offer support for the friends and family with the client, including staying with their loved ones so that they can take breaks and feel comfort knowing their loved ones are in good hands,” said Sanford.“Quilts are donated to our society from the local ‘Quilters Guild’ and these quilts are given to the clients in care that are then passed on to the family to keep.”


Referrals for hospice support are made automatically by Home and Community Care personnel, but a friend, family member or the patients themselves are also able to make a referral. Hospice does not discriminate based on religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, age of patient or type of illness. Anyone facing end of life is welcome to reach out to hospice for support.


The Hospice Coordinator will meet with the client and/or family to discuss how the program works and how it might best serve the client’s needs and wishes. Should the client or family agree to receive hospice services, a specific volunteer will be assigned to support the family throughout the journey.


The Merritt Hospice also provides other services including individual and group support.


“We also offer community education about various aspect of palliative care and grief support, and Advance Care Planning Sessions to the public,” said Sanford.


“We maintain a comprehensive lending library and we have been doing the ‘Celebrate-A-Life’ Memory Tree during Christmas for over 30 years.”


For those who have lost a loved one there is also ‘grief support’ offered by hospice volunteers. This may include oneon-one support or inclusion in the ‘Living with Loss’ confidential grief support group. ‘Living with Loss’ was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but plans have been made to begin the meetings again sometime this month. For more information, call 250-280-1701.


The Merritt Hospice is a member of the BC Hospice Palliative Care Association, the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association, and the BC Bereavement Helpline.


If you, or someone you know, is in need of any of the hospice’s services, call 250-280-4040 for more information.